Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is an inflammatory condition which results in bony growth and fusion. It is also recognized as a form of arthritis.

Ankylosing refers to the fusion of vertebra and joints of the spine. Spondylitis refers to inflammation.

Inflammation occurs where soft tissue (ligaments/tendons) attach to the bone. Once this settles, healing takes place. This results in the formation of new bone, and ultimately fusion.

Areas affected mainly include the Sacroiliac joint and spine.

1/3 of individuals with AS are affected in other joints (shoulders, knees ankles etc)

Onset occurs during teenage years or in their twenties. 1 in 200 Men are affected and 1 in 500 women. 

Signs & Symptoms

  • Slow gradual onset of pain

  • Stiffness

  • Swelling

  • Restricted movement of lumbar spine

  • Restricted chest expansion measurement

  • Pain lingers for months

  • Pain is not relieved by rest

  • Pain decreases with exercise

  • Fatigue, fever, weight loss

  • Flattened lumbar curve

  • Accentuated thoracic kyphosis

  • Tender Achilles and plantar fascia insertions

What Causes It?

Researches are uncertain of the definite cause of AS. However, there appears to be a familial tendency. Also there is a strong association (96% of individuals with AS) with Genetic Cell Marker - Human Leucocyte Antigen B27.

How to Self Manage

See your GP for assessment, and referral to a Rheumatologist.

Confirmation may require an x-ray and/or MRI.

Once diagnosis confirmed:

  • Stretching

  • Exercise (swimming and hydrotherapy can be good as they are low impact and promote mobility)

  • Medication (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) to reduce pain

  • Posture awareness – Pilates may be helpful

  • Sleep with a firm mattress and a single pillow to maintain normal spinal curvatures


AS is usually managed with increased body awareness, exercise, and medication. If joints are severely affected then surgery may be indicated at a later stage.

How Physio Helps

  • Conduct a thorough posture analysis

  • Prescribe an exercise program addressing spinal mobility, encourage extension, increased breathing, and improved posture)

  • PilatesHydrotherapy

  • Massage

  • Stretching

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Disclaimer: Information made available by AskPhysio (Sammy Margo Physiotherapy) is provided for guidance only and should not be considered as medical recommendations or advice.  AskPhysio is not responsible for errors or omissions in the information. Please consider what the best options for your healthcare are, based on the urgency of your condition and nature of your condition. Please consult a GP or Healthcare Specialist to discuss any specific concerns that exist prior to using the information provided.